Ford Thunderbird, an all time Ford classic that first appeared in 1954, one year after GM released its great classic, theCorvette.
Although considered to be in competition to the Corvette, it wasnt really.
The Corvette was designed to be a sports car while the Thunderbird was more a 2 person luxury car.
Built on a cut down traditional standard Ford “body on frame” design, it came with a removable fibreglass top, with a fabric convertible top available as an extra.
Considered a lightweight car with a choice of 2 Y block V8’s, either 292 cub in or 312 cub in, it was quite fast with a top speed of up to 120mph but missed the bus when it came to acceleration.
In this respect its performance was considered okay but certainly not exciting. Typical but not common to all Ford’s from the 1950’s , and many other makes also.
The First and Second Generation Ford Thunderbirds, from 1954 to 1960 I always thought were the most attractive looking out of the total of 11 Generations manufactured.
With a clean uncluttered shape they looked their intended purpose, a fast and comfortable personal cruiser.
Unfortunately as time went on the Ford design team couldn’t resist constant tinkering, and some models looking more like a wallowing whale rather than its intended purpose of being a fast but comfortable cruiser. Ford was inspired by Jaguar who were selling well in the USA. Ironically a similar scenario happened with Jaguar when they introduced their Mark 10,[and to a lesser extent the 420G] which quickly became nicknamed the pregnant whale. Later in life Ford were to buy Jaguar, then onsold it a few years later.
Sales figures below of the various Thunderbird models illustrates the above comments well:
1st Generation 1955 -1957 sales were 16.155 for 1955, total for the 3 years 53,166.
2nd Generation 1958 – 1960 total sales for the 3 year period 198,191
3rd Generation 1961 – 1963 total sales over the 3 years 214,375
4th Generation 1964 – 1966 total sales were up again 236,613
5th Generation 1967 – 1971 total for the 5 year period 278,085
But sales slumped from 77,976 in 1967 down to 36,055 in 1971
7th Generation 1977 – 1979 total sales for the 3 years 955,032
An average of a whopping 318,344 cars per year
8th Generation 1980 – 1982 total sales for these 3 years 288,638 Sales for 1980 were average at 156,803, but by 1982 were a pitiful 45,142
9th Generation 1983 – 1988 sales for this 6 year period 885,745
An average of 147,624 per year, a good result after the 1982 collapse
10th Generation 1989 – 1997 a long 9 year period selling 961,624
Best year was 1993 with 130,750, the worst 1997 with just 36,582
11th Generation 2002 – 2005 total sales over the 4 years just 68,098
Production ceased in July 2005 after a dismal 9,295 sales.
So ended the Ford Thunderbird after a rather checkered career which must have placed enormous pressure at times on Fords Production Planning Division as you can see from the sales records above, where from 1982 especially the sales could swing from way over expectations, to a very dismal result within a few months, and then bounce back again. Another model Fordreleased soon after the Thunderbird that fitted into the other end of the car market, and sold consistently well was another classic – the Ford Falcon.
Special thanks to both The History Car for this video, and to Wikipedia for some history information.